Putting An End to Meeting Mania

If you’ve worked in just about any office lately, this may not come as a big surprise: Meetings can be a colossal productivity drain—they can create a treadmill of a work existence for many, where seemingly little gets done.

In fact, the 2017 American Express OPEN ‘Get Business Done’ survey says that more than one-third of employees spend nearly 1,200 hours a year in meetings they call “pointless.” That’s 150 work days, or 30 work weeks a year. Add to that related pre- and post-meeting time, and you’ve got business moving at a virtual snail’s pace.

Clearly there’s value in information sharing, but no meetings are better than poorly run meetings. Imagine if these 30 weeks per employee were freed up for real work.

So, in a business world that lauds collaboration and cross-functional work teams, how do you limit meetings overall and keep participants to only those who help advance the business?

In a recent article for American Express OPEN Forum, I shared ways to eliminate “meeting clutter” and become more strategic, to help ensure employees are more invigorated and productive. Here are some tips to consider.

Preparing for Your Business Meeting

A lot of your success depends on: a) Whether you actually need a meeting; b) The rules of engagement; c) How you plan the content; d) Who’s attending; and e) Other factors.

  1. Decide who’s invited. Decide who must attend, not who might like to attend.
  2. Keep groups to eight to 12 people. Less is more. With a smaller group, you can help engender more engagement, focus and deeper discussion.
  3. Keep an eye on frequency. Weekly staff meetings are fine, but if you’re all caught up and have pressing projects, why subject yourself and others to another meeting?
  4. Consider alternatives to meetings. There are times when other communications options make more sense: emails, a call or meeting face to face with staff members is ideal.
  5. Watch out for convenience. Make sure you’re not trying to do too much with too many attendees or sending out verbose email blasts, for example.
  6. Know your timing. Try to avoid scheduling meetings on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons when colleagues are beginning or wrapping up their week.
  7. Have an agenda and clear goals. Winging it may work for birthday parties, but little else. Even brainstorm sessions, where anything goes creativity-wise, should have a built-in structure.
  8. Encourage solutions, not problems. Ask your team to bring solutions, not just issues to share with others.
  9. Limit emails about the meeting. Include a cover email that succinctly explains the purpose of the meeting, your agenda and what’s needed for preparation.
  10. Have one team leader. The old axiom “too many cooks…” applies to the kitchen and the conference room. The team leader maintains control, guides the pace and helps stay on topic.

For more information, including advice on what to do during the meeting, read the full article.